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Eastbourne Borough v Dartford

Dartford have three games to prove they are worthy of a playoff place with the first away to Eastbourne Borough on Easter weekend.

The Darts travel to Priory Lane on Saturday at a time when a lack of form and injuries are testing management duo Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle. Dartford had looked comfortable in the top seven a month ago, but two points out of the last fifteen available has seen them drop out of the playoffs.

Four of the last five league games have been against teams in the lower half of the table, two of which are in a relegation scrap. This weekend will be no different as Eastbourne Borough are above the drop zone by a single point and have not tasted victory in their last fourteen league outings.

However, Adam Flanagan feels a win in Sussex will turn the season around, he told www.kentonline.co.uk: “We just need to get a win, if we get a win then I think we will be settled. We’ve got a group where they are confident they can beat any team in this league. But we’re on a negative run at the moment and we need to flip that round as quickly as we can”.

Dartford have also been hit by the news that former captain Elliot Bradbrook will retire at the end of the season. The midfielder started last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at home to Chippenham Town as centre back before leaving the pitch with a calf injury inside the first twenty minutes. Bradbrook will be a huge miss especially as he’s the second highest scorer in the club’s history with 142 goals in 444 appearances. Flanagan also confirmed that striker Phil Roberts will no longer play for the club, Charlie Sheringham is not available for all the remaining fixtures, whilst Billy Crook and Mark Onyemah have been out injured.

On a positive note, Andy Pugh returned to first team action with a substitute appearance against Chippenham Town. The striker has been recovery from pre-season’s leg break and managed to complete fifteen minutes. Flanagan commented on Pugh’s return, he said: “Ideally if everyone was fit and we had a bench full of players then you’d give him the season off and get him back for pre-season”, he added: “It’s good to have him back and we’ll work closely to make sure we don’t force too much out of him. If he can come on and score a goal or two then great and if his leg isn’t ready or there is any doubt, then we’re not going to push him”.

Defeat against Chippenham Town was only Dartford’s third at home this season and with one more to play at Princes Park they will need to make their away games count too. Flanagan reflected after the loss: “I actually think we’ve played worse and won. In possession we were quite good, moved the ball quite well and got lots of opportunities to get balls into the box. We didn’t test their keeper as much as we wanted. I thought it was an assured performance apart from not scoring”.

Back in September, the Darts had Bradbrook to thank in the reverse fixture against Eastbourne Borough when his last-minute equaliser salvaged a point. Twice Dartford had to come from behind, first when former Dartford winger Dave Martin scored for the Sports, Charlie Sheringham levelled the contest. Then early in the second-half Emmanuel Odubade put Eastbourne Borough ahead before Bradbrook netted at the end.

It’s been a year since the Darts last visited Priory Lane in the league when they were battling for the National South title. A sixth consecutive win was secured by a Danny Mills header to keep Dartford top of the table on goal difference with three games to go.

This season the two sides met in the F.A Trophy at the third qualifying round stage. At Priory Lane, Kudus Oyenuga’s late equaliser forced a replay cancelling out Dean Cox’s goal. In the rematch, the tie ended in dramatic fashion with three goals in the closing minutes. Dean Cox’s brace for the Sports had the Sussex side cruising until the 89th minute when Andre Coker pulled a goal back. Academy product, Taylor Fisher equalised two minutes into injury time and with the tie heading for another thirty minutes former Dart, Tom Gardiner headed the winner knocking Dartford out at the first hurdle.

Three former players could be involved on the weekend wearing the Eastbourne Borough colours, Gardiner appeared 75 times, Martin made 71 starting appearances and scored 16 goals and Marvin Hamilton made just one substitute appearance. The Sports have been on a dismal run that is threatening eight year run in the National South. The Sussex side have started to struggle in front of goal with Charlie Walker responsible for the Sports last three goals, scored over the last five games. In fact, in their 14 game winless streak they have failed to net on nine occasions.

The experienced Mark McGhee is now in charge at Priory Lane taking over from Jamie Howell in February. The Glaswegian has plenty of Football League managerial experience winning promotion with Reading, Millwall and Brighton and Hove Albion, the 61 year-old has also managed in the Scottish Premiership with Motherwell and Aberdeen. Whether McGhee will be in the same role next season remains to be seen as the club are looking for applicants for the position.

Eastbourne Borough have lost their last three league games helping Torquay United to the title last weekend. The Sports lost 2-0 to the champions which followed a 2-1 loss to relegation rivals Gloucester City and 3-2 at Hemel Hempstead Town. Their six game unbeaten run at the start of the campaign seems so long ago, now the Sports are in a ‘mini-league’ at the bottom of the table.

Head to Head

Eastbourne Borough wins: 5 / Dartford wins: 10 / Draws: 4

Current League Form

Eastbourne Borough (LLLDLD) Dartford (LLDDLW)
Torquay United A 0-2 Chippenham Town H 0-1
Gloucester City H 1-2 Weston-super-Mare A 1-3
Hemel Hempstead Town A 2-3 Truro City H 1-1
Bath City H 0-0 Hampton & Richmond H 2-2
Hungerford Town A 0-2 Torquay United A 0-2
Chelmsford City H 1-1 Gloucester City H 2-0

Previous Six Meetings

27.11.2018 Dartford 2 Eastbourne Borough 3
24.11.2018 Eastbourne Borough 1 Dartford 1
08.09.2018 Dartford 2 Eastbourne Borough 2
14.04.2018 Eastbourne Borough 0 Dartford 1
12.09.2017 Dartford 4 Eastbourne Borough 2
08.04.2017 Dartford 4 Eastbourne Borough 3

Stats 

Dartford have gone nine league games unbeaten against Eastbourne Borough (W7, D2).

Eastbourne Borough’s F.A Trophy win in November was the Sports first win against the Darts in 13 attempts.

The Darts are unbeaten in five games at Priory Lane in all competitions, last losing an away match against the Sussex club in 2002.

Five games without a win is the longest winless streak under Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle.

On This Day

Six years ago Dartford were officially crowned the best part time team in the country. The final game of the season may have ended 1-0 to Nuneaton Borough when Wesley York scored the only goal of the game, but the Darts enjoyed a fantastic campaign finishing eighth in the National League. Lee Noble scored nine years ago in a 1-1 draw at Wealdstone. Already crowned Isthmian Premier League champions, the Darts were held for a second game in a row.

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